June 07, 2017 @ 12:00am

Google “disruptive advertising” and you’re likely to get a number of very different definitions, and if you make the mistake of YouTubing it, prepare yourself for some unsettling stuff.

Truth’s “Body Bags” comes to mind.

So what does disruptive advertising mean? And, more importantly, what should it do? For a term that’s become a big part of advertiser jargon, it’s surprisingly hard to pin down a definition. We know it’s supposed to be more and more popular as consumers become inundated with ads in their digital and physical space: Advertisers have trained consumers to not see ads because it’s all a big dose of ignorable samey-same.

In theory, “disruptive” means an ad that’s effective because it’s unexpected, breaking through all that noise. But too often, disruptive advertising is executed as a one-off, a chance to temporarily grab the target’s attention and collect hits on social media. And while this works short term, disruptive should be more than a single execution: It should be a mindset.  

I’m a big fan of Dove’s “Real Beauty.” 

Though some of the polish has worn off over the years (I get it: the models are still Photoshopped, they’re still advertising wrinkle cream, etc.) it’s a revolutionary idea: Disrupt the cosmetic industry’s standard of relying on models and celebrities to sell.

Dove’s ads feature women with full-figured bodies, and that’s surprising. But the true disruption happens in the consumer’s mind over time. While other examples of disruptive advertising make a splash with a one-off, Dove has committed itself to making waves, showing women a new way to feel about beauty with a campaign that consistently surprises and delights. Put another way, I won’t forget Truth’s “Body Bags” ad, but the Dove brand is changed forever—one was a great spot, one was a revolution.

Try not to get misty after watching this spot. It’s disruptive on its own, but it’s also in lock step with Dove’s original idea.

Disruptive advertising means making a commitment to how you portray a brand, not to a single execution. It’s a mindset that accepts that advertising that doesn’t push limits and redefine brand simply doesn’t work. Do you have a favorite disruptive campaign? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author: Micah Riecker

Micah Riecker has been 6AM Marketing's Copy Jedi and Chief Wordsmith since June of 2016. A graduate of Knox College, the University of Illinois and Madison College, he specializes in using copy to wake up tired advertising concepts.

Post tags:creative

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